As I was writing about ideas, I got caught in a couple of conversations about frameworks vs methodologies vs processes reminding me that there is some confusion about the differences between all three and how they fit together.
I’ll start by telling you that despite the way these terms probably sound to you, and the way they are often abused, they are not “fluffy” consulting words used to describe useless constructs whose only purpose it to help guys in suits look smart and charge high fees. The application and understanding of frameworks, methodologies and processes can transform businesses, they are why some companies, regardless of what you think of them, have grown to immense size and value. So while it’s not super sexy, it’s not “SEO” or “Twitter” I would encourage you to put aside any preconceived notions you have about these topics and we’ll see if we can clarify some of the confusion.
Apply them as much are as little as you want but they will make a difference in your business.
Frameworks are by definition a little loose. They exist to provide structure and direction on a preferred way to do something without being too detailed or rigid. In essence, frameworks provide guidelines. They are powerful because they provide guidance while being flexible enough to adopt to changing conditions or to be customized for your company while utilizing vetted approaches.
The Idea Lifecycle Matrix mentioned is an example of a framework and is very loose adoption of the more well known Capability Maturity Model or CMM. Truthfully you probably won’t be that rigid about your ideas but it was meant to be an applicable example.
A methodology is an approach to “doing something” with a defined set of rules, methods, tests activities, deliverables, and processes which typically serves to solve a specific problem. An example of a business methodology would be how, in a defined, planned manner, you test something, validate results, establish the deliverables and determine how to improve and monitor that “thing” on an ongoing basis. Methodologies demonstrate a well thought out, defined, repeatable approach. Using well worn methodologies provides a lot of support to the validity of the way you do something and the results you get which is important to your clients.
The scientific method is an example of a methodology (now just apply that thinking to business).
Processes are probably the easiest to understand since we all work with them daily, even when we don’t know it. A process is simply a well defined set of steps and decisions points for executing a specific task. Well planned and deeply understood processes are essential to your ability to automate business tasks. This is really where that magic happens, a the process level. Generally speaking, processes are highly repeatable and if it can be repeated it can be automated (with exceptions or occasional human intervention of course).
An example of a process would be how you process payments to vendors you work with and the steps and decisions involved in doing so. When working through processes and defining them be EXTREMELY detailed, otherwise attempts to automate will end in futility. Capture every action and decision and outline sub-processes as necessary.
Hopefully that clears up the differences between frameworks, methodologies and processes. While they appear somewhat hierarchical, and can be, they aren’t always necessarily so, particularly in both directions. Frameworks will typically have methodologies but not always. Methodologies will typically have [multiple] processes embedded, but some processes will be stand alone.
The real power of combining these things is in developing processes in the context of a methodology and applying methodologies in the context of a framework and most importantly, when you utilize all of those things in the context of YOUR business. The exact same approach won’t work for every business but every business, no matter how large or small, can benefit from applying these principles.